The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fatal weaknesses in our democratic, economic, and social institutions. It was quickly followed by another moment of reckoning as our nation grappled with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the movement for Black Lives swept the nation. We are living in a historic moment, where the People are uprising against government incompetence, white supremacy and systemic racism. If we want to fight for a liveable future, we need to reimagine what our democracy--and more broadly, world-- will look like for future generations.

The big question:

When we emerge from this crisis, what do you want our democracy, our justice system, and more broadly, our world to look?

Art has always had a special role in resistance movements with its unique ability to shift perspective and add new points of view. We wanted to support the next generation of Black artists during this time of economic crisis and provide a platform to showcase your vision for our democracy and world. We raised over $1,000 dollars to use as prize money to support our winners, all young Black artists.


1st Place: WE MATTER

By Michael Riley (@mikey_goldie), 20

ABOUT THE ART: White America chooses not to see us for who we are; they only want to see the hatred they were taught. Moreover, white America defines African Americans as undeserving, weak, lazy thugs; never seeing us as their equals or the human beings that we are.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Michael is a passionate artist born in New Orleans and raised in Atlanta. He is skilled at drawing with both ink and graphite, and has recently started branching out into oil paintings as well. Creating works with a political message is a new genre that Michael has been exploring and is grateful for the unique platform that art has been able to give to his voice.

2nd Place: Sound of Da Police

By Jazzmin Imani (@jazzminimani), 19

ABOUT THE ART: Recently, a CNN headline potently described the state of America in the summer of 2020: "Two Deadly Viruses Are Killing Americans: Covid-19 And Racism." Both crises disproportionately affect Black people and both are being held in limbo due to an inability to make necessary changes to American systems. My piece, Sound of Da Police, addresses the violent policing of Black bodies that has been in the spotlight this summer. The piece takes inspiration from a section of the song "Sound of Da Police" by KRS-One. The lines compare the word 'officer' to 'overseer' and acknowledge the role of officers today and how that role is tied to the overseer's role on a plantation. The scene of the Black women was modeled after the club scenes shown in the movie Paid in Full, and the piece is staged against a cotton field as if when the police appear, everyone involved becomes trapped in Colonial America. My piece challenges the idea that we are in a "Post-Colonial America." The justice system has shown that it does not stand for Black lives. The country's COVID-19 response has shown that it does not stand for Black lives. In 2020, we still ask ourselves as Black Americans when this country will stand for Black lives in its policies, systems, and elected officials because the change cannot begin and will not last until there is a universal understanding that Black lives-at the very least-matter.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Jazzmin is a sophomore at Brown University studying visual arts and cognitive neuroscience. Her main style is oil paintings because of the vivid colors they afford, but loves using other mediums to put forth the messages about personal struggle, family, and being black.

3rd Place: XIII in Form

By Austin Washington (@warlockinwords), 24

ABOUT THE ART: XIII in Form, is a piece that plays on the "unlucky" nature of the number 13, as well as my take on what school felt like to me as well as what I see it doing to society at large. I as a black man in this society have a love hate relationship with the number 13, schools and prisons, so I explored the concept in this tight 13 line poem.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Austin has been writing poetry since he was 16 years old and fell in love with theatre. He is currently studying acting at Eastern Connecticut State University, looking to merge it with his own creative directing and writing styles. Seeing black people on the big screen growing up inspired Austin to pursue the arts and change stereotypes of the types of interests black people should have.

Our Judges:

Our judges include artists across a variety of mediums who’ve made contributions in their community and foster civic engagement through their art. We are thrilled to work with the following talented artists for our first virtual art competition…

Regie Gibson

Regie Gibson

Literary Performer, actor & educator, Regie Gibson, has lectured & performed in the U.S., Cuba & Europe. Representing the U.S. in Italy, Regie competed for & received both the Absolute Poetry Award in Monfalcone & The Europa in Versi Award in LaGuardia di Como. He’s received a Mass Cultural Council Poetry Award, is a Brother Thomas Fellow & has received two Live Arts Boston Grants to develop his first play, The Juke: A Blues Bacchae. He has composed texts for The Boston City Singers, The Mystic Chorale and Boston’s Handel+Haydn Society. He performs regularly with Atlas Soul: a world music ensemble & Shakespeare to Hip-Hop: an education & performance program integrating classical and modern texts into English curriculums.

Marie E. Saint-Cyr

Marie E. Saint-Cyr

Marie received a BFA in Fine Arts and a minor in Art History from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2018, Marie participated in The Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Fellowship, a collaboration between four prominent Brooklyn arts and culture organizations: where she learned about core areas of arts management, including Development, Marketing/Community Engagement, Education, Curatorial/Programming, Production/Tech, and Administration/Finance.

As a Haitian immigrant, Marie was deeply impacted by various art cultural organizations, through their free workshops and educational programs. These experiences not only enabled her to learn to express herself through art, but she also became very interested in the work it takes to make these programs happen. Saint-Cyr Art Studio was born out of Marie’s passion for Art, Education, Business and her desire to give back to her community. When Marie is not painting or facilitating art programs, she can be found backpacking through countries and trying out new food.

Paola Parola

Paola Parola

Art serves a special purpose in my life and always has. While those around me projected their voice through words, my thoughts very naturally flowed through my ability to create. Since 2014, I’ve used my art to share my voice with others through a variety of platforms, and have been featured in many art exhibitions. Through my experiences with art, I’ve discovered my passion for graphic design. For the past 2 years I’ve helped other individuals and small businesses share their messages through visual communication. Currently, I am a graphic design student at Lonestar College aiming to expand my knowledge in the industry and share my creativity with the world.